08 January 2007

The greening of the oil sands

All the attention on greenhouse gases has raised fears in the energy industry, especially regarding development of the oil sands. To Robert Mansell, head of the University of Calgary's institute for sustainable energy, environment and economy - a green oil sands. Mansell says the future must marry what he calls the 3 Es, energy, environment and economy, using technology to increase recovery, reduce emissions and capture carbon dioxide. But the key, he insists, is the government taking charge, making hard and clear rules, instead of waiting and hoping industry will make the full push. “If governments aren't going to lead, it won't happen,” Mansell says. “We're a nation that's never achieved our potential. We've done okay but we've never reached the next level.” It's the lack of precise policies that discourages improvement and innovation, he said. “You have to have the market working for you. It needs the right signals, the right incentives. . . . It's like a mission to the moon. If we point people in the right direction, we'll come out with wonderful things.”
(Globe and Mail 070106)

The powers that be in Ottawa and Edmonton claim to be leaders (and love to pay themselves for the privilege of using this moniker), however very few of them appear to have the characteristics that would actually distinguish them as such. Let's just hope that we can find some quality leaders in the near future that will have the resolve and fortitude to stick to progressive plans to move the province and the country towards a more sustainable future with much lower GHG emissions and not simply pander to the corporations and the lowest common denominator of money to guide their decisions. Like that will ever happen. Corruption is to politics as the smell of shit is to shit.

Tougher greenhouse gas limits hit polluters

The federal government's new insistence on reducing greenhouse-gas emissions will have wide implications for the major industries that contribute to global warming, said the minister chairing the new cabinet committee on energy security and the environment. “It's very clear the environment is a priority for the Prime Minister and this government,” Native Affairs Minister Jim Prentice said in an interview Friday. “There are implications in that context for coal-burning electricity producers, oil-sands plants, pipeline companies and, of course, consumers in this country,” he said. Prime Minister Stephen Harper named John Baird as the new Environment Minister last week, putting green issues at the top of the government's priorities. Harper also named Prentice as the chair of the new cabinet committee on environment and energy security, showing the importance of the Calgary MP in shaping the government's overall agenda. Prentice inherited the committee's chairmanship as the minister officially in charge of the country's pipeline development, of which he is a major proponent. Harper has also called for increased development of Canada's role as an international energy superpower, which critics said has come at the expense of the environment. Environmentalists remains skeptical about the government's new green agenda. “It's very much complicated by having Mr. Prentice as the chair of this cabinet committee,” said Stephen Hazell, executive director of the Sierra Club of Canada. “He is such a huge booster of the pipelines.” The oil patch, on the other hand, is pleased to see Prentice inheriting a large role on environmental issues as the head of the cabinet committee. Baird will be vice-chair. “You have the Environment Minister in a leadership position,” said David MacInnis, president of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association. “Having said that, you've provided a counterbalance to the environment in the form of another minister who is also very influential within the cabinet structure.”
(Globe and Mail 070106, 070108)

Despite my misgivings of having the Western-based conservative party in power of the federal government, there is one advantage. Because of the awareness in Ottawa of the implications of these environmental moves on the Western Canadian industrial base, there will be a lot more thought and pause given to any implementation of an energy agenda that will not look like the 1980 NEP plan. Not necessarily that anything they implement will be better or worse but here's hoping they analyze the possible outcomes better and reflect on the historic track record of these initiatives.

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